Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category

Today’s Beta could be called “practice what you preach.” There’s always room for improvement in these categories.

6 Simple Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day by Fast Company. I really needed this list. I’ve needed a bit of motivation in my personal disciplines lately.

Here’s something I really need help with. This article, Men, Don’t Stop Dating Your Wife by Eric Geiger, was a direct hit.

Articles like this are instructive to me –  Understanding How Children Develop Empathy by the New York Times.

Sexual Freedom Always Curtails Other Freedoms by Trevin Wax is not what you think. Trevin talks about men exhibiting emotions and affection toward one another in a manly way. It’s an interesting piece about how perversion in culture can skew reality.

A Star-Tribune columnist talks about the difficulties of waiting to have children in this piece. If I live long enough, I’ll be at least 51 when my youngest learns to drive, 53 when she leaves high school, 55 when she graduates college. It could be another 10 years before she has kids. What about you?

Tough story to watch here, but it ends well.  An inmate finds out his baby momma was murdered after reading the newspaper. See the restoration that happens next –

Most men start life with a “dad deficit.” That shouldn’t come as a shock; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 40% of all babies born in 2011 came from unmarried women.

Not having a dad around makes many guys unprepared for fatherhood, leading to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity as well as a lack of leadership skills.

Here’s a humorous take on “Fearing Fatherhood” from the Power of the Home blog.

For most of my childhood I had a frightening hunch that I would one day be a dad.  My hunch was frightening because I was raised by a single-mother.  What did I know about being a dad?  One day my kid would ask me questions that all dads know how to answer. All dads but me.

“Dad, how do you clean a fish?”

“Just cut his head off, son.  The rest should take care of itself from there.”

“Dad, what does a spark plug do?”

“Hey look, a butterfly.”

My senior year of high school I failed out of a trigonometry class and got put in a wood shop class. This excited me.  Trigonometry didn’t seem to have a lot to offer but wood shop would probably help me to learn some dad things.  This way, if my kid ever asked me what a spark plug did I could at least build him a bird house.  My first few days in wood shop were spent telling jokes and seeing who could hammer a nail into a board the fastest.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, I got taken out of that wood shop class.  I don’t think anyone else, in the history of public education, has ever been taken out of wood shop.  Wood shop classes exist for the kids that get taken out of other classes.  When school administrators pull you from a wood shop class, it’s sort of like getting kicked out of prison.  My fears of fatherhood remained.

So instead of wood shop, I got put in an electronics class.  I was okay with this.  Now, whenever my kid would ask me what a spark plug does I could teach him how to slide his church shoes on the carpet and electrocute his friends.  That’s classic dad stuff, right?  Unfortunately, all we ever did in electronics class was watch movies.  The movie we watched the most was Short Circuit starring Steve Guttenberg.  The good news is that I got an A in that class.  The bad news is that now, whenever my kids ask me what a spark plug does, I tell them a stupid joke and talk about the Police Academy movies.

I’m a 36-year-old father of two young boys and my worst fears as a kid have finally been realized.  I don’t know a lot of dad stuff and I think my kids are on to me.  My oldest son wants to build a tree house.  I’m really hoping Jesus comes back before that time comes.

To compensate for my lack of knowledge, I try to spend a lot of time with my boys doing what I did as a kid: playing outside, playing on the floor, praying, reading the Bible, loving mom and watching Kung-Fu Theater.  Sadly, Kung-Fu Theater doesn’t come on anymore but there are worthy substitutes.

I always pick up my youngest son, kiss him and ask him who he loves.  He’s 16 so he really hates when I do this.  No, really he’s a lot younger than that.  But every time I ask him who he loves he does the same thing.  He points at the wall, or the ceiling, or the refrigerator.  Anything but dad.

One day I was asking my son this question and he was giving his usual response when his older brother walked up and said, “Hey dad, ask me who I love.”

I sensed a Hallmark moment coming so I gladly played along.

“Who do you love more than anybody in the whole world?”

“Mom!”

For a minute I felt like a real loser.  I should have petitioned to stay in that wood shop class.  But then it hit me.

Maybe my son loves his mom so much because he sees how much I love her.  And maybe he’ll grow to love Jesus even more because of how much I love Jesus.  In a way that’s kind of intimidating but it’s also very liberating.  Who cares if I don’t know how to do a lot of dad stuff?  If I can just, by God’s grace, love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), train up my boys in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and love Jesus more than anything else (Deuteronomy 6:5), I think all of the rest will be just fine.

This week I spent some time with a senior adult in my church.  She lives alone and she says her kids are always asking her if she gets lonely in that big house all by herself.  She tells them that she never gets lonely because she’s never alone.  And then she told me about the time a tornado came through her town in the 1930s and how good of a job her dad did at taking care of the family.  The loving presence of her earthly father taught her a great lesson about the far greater loving presence of her heavenly Father.

I hope I teach the same lesson to my boys.

—–

P.S. This is how you clean a catfish –

When I was in the third grade I was given an assignment to interview “an important person.” In our small town and monetarily-challenged family, the most important person I could think of was my school principal.

While I can’t recall his name, the principal of my small K-12 school of about 800 students was a kind and wise man with some sort of physical disability (which might have been Muscular Dystrophy). I also think his wife was the librarian. (Whoever she was, she was also sweet and helpful.)

I remember nervously sitting down in the principal’s office for the first–but definitely not the last–time. His desk was big and intimidating and bookcases tall and full of thick-spined reference books.

My first few questions were generic, while my primary questions focused on his career and the importance of an education. I don’t remember anything he said about any of that, but his response to my last question has stuck with me for 30 years.

“What is your pet peeve?” I inquired, expecting soggy cereal or cold coffee.

“A fake person,” he said.

His answer puzzled me, so I asked him what he meant (I was only eight or nine at the time).

He said something about how people act one way but really are someone different. He talked of liars, cheaters and brown-nosers.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I sensed authenticity. This authentic man earned his level of leadership and respect through his kindness, firmness, wisdom and integrity not through pushing his positional weight around, bullying, lying or cheating.

Unfortunately, authentic men are rare these days.

For many, this week was a tough one as their hero, champion and idol has fallen. People thought he was the “real deal,” an authentic man beating the odds professionally and personally.

Success in this world is hard-fought and earned, and no one likes cheaters. I’m grieved for those who had (or still have) deep admiration for the man who built his legacy and success on a lie.

Men, this is yet another example of how we are all subject to temptation and how we all fall short of perfection. Even if we never jump from space or make this list we can give in to the temptation to be something we are not.

What we are meant to be is authentic leaders. So, let’s learn to lead from authentic leaders, like Jesus, like Jerry Jackson, like my school principal.


Other Authentic Manhood posts…

Guys, you’ll never jump from space, but you can still live an awesome life. Read this post from my friend Dan Kassis called, The Baumgartner Effect.

One way to lead your family is through intentional prayer. Third Option Men asks, Are you a Prayer Wimp?

With election season upon us, one element missing from the discussion is fatherhood. In this All Pro Dad post, Tony Dungy asks for your signature to change that. Sign Coach’s petition today. It takes two minutes.

I have several friends with multiple sons and no daughters, so this link is with them in mind. Check out this advice for raising boys.

SUPER FUNNY VIDEO (that’s why it’s in all caps).

I had two moms growing up. One before she got sick, and then one after. The years of strokes and mini-strokes, aneurysms, brain surgeries and seizure medication took a toll.

I loved them both but wish I had more time with the first. Three years ago this week, my mother died. Her cancer had a quickness and ferocity that left me wondering if it was an act of vengeance or mercy.

In her last days and hours, all six of her kids stayed at the nursing home, and one of us was by her side nearly continuously. I went in to visit with her many times, holding her hand, praying for a pain-free and peaceful transition from this life to the next and talking to her about random stuff as she quietly rested.

The morning of her passing, I woke up and offered to go pick up breakfast for the family. After taking all the orders, I got in the car and as I pulled out of the nursing home parking lot, my phone rang. My oldest sister said, “She’s gone, Bubba.”

Mom finally let go at a rare moment when none of her kids were in the room.

I thought this fitting, as she had devoted her life to her kids.

It was a relief, really. I had seen my mom’s struggle, sicknesses and sadness.

In the introduction of this post, I shared a small glimpse into her sicknesses, but her sadness and our struggle started before I was born.

My beautiful mother with her first husband.

When my mother was fresh out of high school, she married a man I never met, but who nonetheless had a tremendous impact on my life. In her 20s she was widowed with three kids and one on the way after her first husband was killed in a tragic coal-mining accident. His sudden departure sent ripples tsunamis through my family for years to come.

Within a short time after his death my mother married that man’s best friend, and they had a girl together. That marriage fell apart, and within a few more years she married my dad and they had me.

To sum it up, I have three older brothers and two sisters on what I call, “Mom’s side of the family.” On “Dad’s side of the family,” add two more older brothers, a younger sister and two step-siblings, rounding out just my immediate family at six brothers and four sisters from four different dads. (Confused yet?)

I believe my mother knew the importance of us having a father figure; for most of her life it seemed she tried to find us a replacement dad. Even though uncles, father-in-laws, coaches, pastors and older brothers tried filling the void, every one of my siblings has had to or is still trying to overcome the “dad deficit.”

Growing up I didn’t realize the leadership vacuum in our home. I didn’t really know any different. When I looked around at other families in our small community I saw fatherless homes. This leaves me thinking about what choices, what mistakes, what memories did we make or miss?

For at least one of my siblings there are no memories of his dad. A few have some memories. Many have few positive memories. For one, there is just a little time left for restoration.

I am thankful for my older brother who taught me how to catch baseballs and fish, who showed me how to ride a bike and find a good wife. Other brothers taught me about music, cars and girls.

It was only after I gave my life to Jesus and started faithfully attending church did I begin to see solid examples of fatherhood. One of my best friends, Richie, is blessed with a godly, funny, wise and loving father. I am thankful for their example and Rick’s intentional prayers and discipleship. Others, like Scott Wagner, Jimmy Lewis and Ted, Gary and Bill retaught me about real earthly fatherhood.

While this week reminds me of Mom’s passing, it’s difficult to not reflect on the dad deficit as well. I ask for your prayers for my family, especially for my sisters. But most of all, if you are a parent I ask that you take a serious look at the legacy you are leaving to your children.

Dads, you have incredible power over the self-esteem of your daughters and egos of your sons. You can break them for life if you mishandle the most precious gift you’ve been given.

Let’s be authentic men who are authentic dads.

For helpful articles from experts, be sure to read the links on my Beta posts

Cloud Machines

Recently, I sat down with a 3-year-old to discuss some important issues. It’s interesting how she understands basic abstracts. Let’s get started…

LtL: What’s your name?

I have food in my mouth. 

LtL: What’s your name?

My name is Anna Kate.

LtL: How old are you?

I’m eating. (Pause) Three.

LtL: What’s your favorite toy?

A Plex doll. It’s this tiny little robot who can sleep in my bed. 

LtL: What is Yo Gabba Gabba?

A TV show. A cartoon.

LtL: Who is your favorite friend?

I think…Bailee.

LtL: Why is Bailee your favorite friend?

Because I love her and she “dos” a race. (We recently attended a cross-country race to cheer Bailee).

LtL: What is your favorite thing to do with daddy?

Go to Monkey Joe’s.

LtL: What is Monkey Joe’s?

It’s where the bounce houses are and you get a free toy. Whenever you get a toy, you go home.

LtL: What is your favorite thing to do with mommy?

Paint.

LtL: What’s your favorite snack?

Strawberries and blueberries and yogurt.

LtL: Now for some tougher ones. Where do babies come from?

Momma’s chest.

LtL: What does it mean to be married?

I don’t know. Like Eric and Tiffany. And Mommy and Daddy.

LtL: What do you know about God? Who made the world?

Jesus did.

LtL: Who is Jesus?

A person.

LtL: What kind of person?

One time we saw someone dressed up like him.

LtL: What did Jesus do for us?

He died on the cross.

LtL: Why did he do that?

Because He loves us.

LtL: What happened because He died on the cross? What did He take away?

Our bad things.

LtL: What kind of bad things?

That we say and do. 

THE TABLES TURN

Why did He have blood on Him? 

LtL: Because people were mean to Him.

Did He get hurt? 

LtL: Yes.

Where did He get hurt at?

LtL: On His head, on His back, on His side. They put a crown of thorns on His head. They were making fun of Him saying that He wasn’t a king, but He’s the king of the whole universe.

Jesus got whipped on His back. Like He got a spanking for us. Like a bad spanking. He took those stripes for us as punishment. They poked His side with a spear.

Then they put these nails through His hands and feet and they nailed Him to a cross. On like a tree.

(Long pause) Awwww.

LtL: He took a bunch of boo-boos for you.

LtL: What do you know about rainbows?

God made them.

LtL: Yup. Where do clouds come from?

From machines.

LtL: What kind of machines? 

Cloud machines. Someone’s gonna work on the cloud machines in Tennessee. Do you know his name?

LtL: I think it’s called TVA.

Uh-uh. We saw Linda. She has a husband named Mike who works on the cloud machines in Tennessee.

LtL: I wondered where this story was going.

One day when I was a young boy, probably five or six, my mom was bringing me home from school. As we drove up the long hill to our house, we noticed the police in our neighbor’s driveway.

We stopped and found out from a frantic mother that her baby, a little blond-headed boy, had gone missing. He had run away. After several minutes of fretting together, my mom suggested we go drop our stuff off and then help look for him. As we pulled up to our house, I noticed my Spiderman bike had been moved.

Then, as Mom and I went inside, we saw him sitting there in the floor in my room, playing with my toys.

Mom called down and said, “Rusty’s up here. He’s alright.”

Many years later, the most vivid emotion about all this was how upset I was with him for running down the batteries in my Spiderman bike. I also remember that I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in big trouble. It is only now as a dad of two that I understand the sheer fright and drama of that day.

The neighbors in this true story were no ordinary neighbors; they were our closest family friends.

That boy, Rusty Jernigan was my best friend growing up. I would stay overnight at his house regularly as our mothers went out. He was at my house the day the Challenger blew up. Rusty was with me when I stepped clear through a rusty nail.

We played school yard basketball and video games, cruised around looking for girls, hung out and watched MTV, etc.

We laughed hard together, rode bikes together and got busted buying drugs together.

His mom and my mom were best friends; they had both tragically lost husbands. His brothers were good friends with my brothers; they played high school sports together. My sister was close friends with his sister; they were about the same age and did dumb girl stuff together (whatever that is includes Bon Jovi posters). We truly shared life together family to family.

Rusty and I stayed pretty close all the way until my freshman year in college. He and I grew apart during our early-20s.

Recently through Facebook, I learned he died in his mid-thirties.

A few a days earlier he had gone to the hospital. Doctors thought he was drug-seeking again.

You see, my best friend Rusty had a severe drug addiction–not like a fraternity boy kind of addiction that many people lose once they marry or land a nice job–no, he had the kind that controlled his life.

Rusty had been in and out of jail many times for various infractions with the law, pretty much all drug-related. He couldn’t hold down a job and lived on people’s couches. When he got desperate for a fix, I saw him “huff” paint.

Rusty was the product of a broken home. His dad died at an early age. For many years, his mom who was like my second mom (I loved her dearly), battled depression and alcoholism. It was a tragic situation from which Rusty was never able to recover.

The brokenness inside this man, the pain he tried to cover with drugs, the loving acceptance, guidance and wisdom he never got from a father figure forged his rocky path.

Some lectured him. Some prayed hard for him. Many misunderstood or misjudged him.

He was a good guy with a good heart. He loved deeply but struggled immensely. I wish now I had been a better friend to him.

I hadn’t talked to Rusty in years. The last real memory he and I made together was getting picked up by the cops trying to buy drugs. That was 1994, and that’s when I made a last-minute decision to join the Marine Corps and escape the traps of many small towns across the country.

My military enlistment (and later re-enlistment) set me on a different path. It was on a military deployment after 9/11 when Jesus saved me and changed me. I am thankful for the last real memory Rusty and I made together. It, and he, and all that followed as a result are painted into the mosaic of my life.

Looking back at one of closest relationships I had, I think about how I tried to show Jesus’ love and way. Unfortunately, not many examples come to mind. I once wrote him a letter in jail telling him about what God had done for me. I never heard back. I can only hope he had trusted God with his eternal fate.

When his mother passed away I didn’t attend the funeral. I don’t remember what urgent work kept me from attending, but I regret not attending. I could’ve seen him one more time before his tragic death.

Life is precious, dear readers. I hope you are ready to stand before a God who will grant you forgiveness and grace if you ask. If you are not, today is the day of salvation.

If you are struggling with a life-controlling issue, today is the day to turn it over to God. Today is the day you can lay that broken life down at the foot of the cross, on which hung a broken Savior. Jesus is risen, triumphant and all-powerful. His way is the only way, the narrow way. The other way is broad and leads to destruction. Many are on it right now.

And, if you are like me, today is the day you can wish you had not let “life” get in the way of being there for those you cherish.

Now that I think about it…back when Rusty ran away, I’m glad he didn’t get in trouble, because trouble found him soon enough. I’m glad he had a few minutes (or hours if I recall correctly) to innocently enjoy playing with my favorite toys. My wish for his family now is for them to hear from heaven, “Rusty’s up here. He’s alright.”

——

P.S. At the height of all our rock throwing, bike-riding, BB-gun shooting, sister-annoying I didn’t know the power of a dad to shape a boy’s life. Rusty and I talked a little about our dads from time to time. I remember he would occasionally tell me when I was complaining, “at least you still have a dad.”

All of us have a “Dad Story,” some good, most bad.

If you are a dad, what are you doing to set your children up for success in life? Are you teaching them the right things intentionally or are you hoping it will just “rub off” on them? Are you praying for them on a regular basis?